April 22nd – Cup of Joe

This month’s discussion is going to be on “Sacramental Technology,” the idea of spiritual practices as a form of technology that can bring us real results. This is done in the context of the traditional seven sacraments and how they are efficacious “ex opere operato.”

The meeting will be held at the Starbucks in Calhoun, GA at 6pm.

Walking the Walk

Like many Americans, I’ve struggled with my weight for years. Occasionally, I’ll lose weight but eventually I always seem to gain it back. A couple of years ago I got more committed to weight loss than I have ever been and over the course of just over 7 months, I lost over 90 pounds. During this time, I really went to school on nutrition. I taught myself the ins and outs of BMR and cellular energy production, phytonutrients and monounsaturated fats. I even fancied getting a job as a nutritionist as I had learned so much already that any certification would be a snap.

Weight-loss is often a spiritual journey and unfortunately for me, my spirituality got lost in this process. I was becoming overcome by what I now know to be toxic masculinity. Too much testosterone. Too much “gym bro” mentality. I’m glad to say that I got away from that dangerous mindset but not before leaving my weight-loss journey in the process. It’s complicated, as these things are, but the short version is that I got more spiritual and more mentally healthy but regained those 90 lbs in the process. However, I never forgot all the things I learned.

Fast forward to today. Several of my work friends are beginning weight-loss journey’s of their own. They are aware of the tidbits of insight I have to give and so they ask me regularly about nutrition, exercise, and short term goals. I’m happy to help, of course, but I’ve come to realize a strange dichotomy as I do. There I sit, eating Cheetos and drinking soda while lecturing a cadre of newly healthy conscious dieters on which salad dressings are the lowest sugar and what kind of exercise plan they should be on. There is a reason that fitness coaches, as a rule, are not morbidly obese. No one would take a 400 lb man seriously about cardio or “fat free” vs “lite” for the same reason they wouldn’t take a homeless man’s word on diversifying a stock portfolio. At the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding as they say. Only because I have very close and kind work friends would they listen to a word I have to say.

This illustrates a very important point. You can “know” a thing but it is different to “grok” a thing. Perhaps another word you could use instead of grok is “gnosis.” Regardless, the point is the same. Saint James said, “You believe in God and this is well but the demons believe and tremble.” No one would accuse a demonic spirit of being at one with The One and at the very least would agree the relationship is largely adversarial. There is a difference between intellectual knowledge and making that knowledge, or gnosis, a part of your being. Demons know of God and His Power but they tremble before it as vanquished foes. A fat man at work knows what calorie total will result in weight-loss for an overweight coworker but shows no indication of eating with such restrictions himself. Priests can lecture the laity on the ins and outs of theology and the history of the Catholic tradition but if their lives are not ones filled with prayer and ritual, spiritual pursuit and spiritual growth, they will be “as a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.”

A priest without a spiritual life is like a morbidly obese personal trainer. On some level, no matter how accurate or in-depth his or her knowledge may be, the proof is in the pudding. If you don’t live what you preach, and not only that, BE what you preach, your influence will be mitigated if not nullified entirely. That goes for not only your ability to help others but also yourself.

It goes without saying that having friends begin the process of watching what they eat and trying to replace cheeseburgers with cobb salads is inspiring and pushes me to start again on my weightloss journey. But more than that, it has inspired me to really think about what I mean when I call myself a seminarian on the path to receiving Major Orders. If that day comes and I lay prostrate before God’s Holy Altar, will I tremble as the demon’s do? Or in the midst of my unworthiness will I hear the still small voice that says I am forgiven?

Can I really expect to hear that voice if my God is a stranger to me who never hears me pray? Hears me weep for the evil of the world? Hears me call upon the Name of His Son? Sees me battle the forces of darkness by serving my fellow man with humility?

There is more to being a priest than giving the Eucharist.

The Eucharist never ends.

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.”

 

Bro. Joe

 

March 25th – Prayer Circle

The Narthex will be meeting at the Calhoun Recreation Department located at 601 S River Street, Calhoun, GA 30701 at 6pm to have a group prayer/meditation session. This will be an opportunity to put your intentions into motion by whatever technique you feel most comfortable utilizing. There will be discussion of different types of prayer and meditation and sharing of the intentions of the group. Participation is completely optional.

Reflections on B.O.T.A.

Recently, we had a Narthex Field Trip where we went to a B.O.T.A. meeting (Builder’s of the Adytum) and it was an interesting and edifying experience. One thing in particular stuck with me and I wanted to comment on it here.

I will not quote it properly, but in essence, the coordinator for the meeting said that they welcome new people of all types and greatly value their input. They clarified that they do not have some special knowledge that they are hording but rather everyone arrives already containing all the knowledge they ever need within. The techniques of Paul Foster Case and Anne Davies are there to draw this out and refine it, not replace it.

Indeed, I personally noticed this come out in the meeting. For those who don’t know, Case’s system draws heavily upon Tarot and its symbolism as the primary teaching tool. There were people in attendance that were Golden Dawn Adepts and there were people who had their fortune read one time and just arrived through serendipity. The visitors who knew a lot of the “standard” symbolism of Tarot, the elements, and astrological correspondence tended to follow these common tropes together. While their input was always unique to them, it definately contained a number of shared presuppositions. In contrast, the “newbies” had a perspective that was in a sense “cleaner” or more “pure.” Since they did not have a memorized correspondence table rattling around in the back of their brains, their input was frank and childlike. Believe me, I mean that in a very positive way. Untainted by various versions of “the right answer” they just gave their own answers and they guided the discussion in immensely edifying ways. That isn’t to say that their answers were perfect. There is no “right” answer after all, and theirs were certainly lacking in nuance. That said, they filled an important gap that the answers from the “old guard” seemed to leave behind.

This is the most important thing I took away from the meeting from the perspective of a Gnostic Christian Church. We don’t have some secret that we are holding back. There isn’t some amazing doctrine that only the fully realized Adepti among us can fathom. We are little worlds, microcosms of the universe in toto, and we already have so much within us. We are Divine Sparks. We are the Sacred Flame. We don’t need membership in some special club to access that, nor is what we already hold within ourselves somehow inferior to the gurus and learned masters. That isn’t to say that time and effort, practice and study don’t yield significant results. But rather, the innocent perspective of new eyes should never be discounted. We should seek to always make room keep such perspectives near to our hearts and minds.

It is this final ambition that I feel that a Gnostic Christian Church is particularly good at. There is always a new person on the block. There is a field white for the harvest. By engaging our newer members as equals we help stave off the calcification caused by pat answers and rote responses.

 

God Bless You All,

Bro. Joe

March 11th – Cup of Joe – Montesegur Day

We will be meeting for our monthly Cup of Joe at the Starbucks in Calhoun, GA at 6:00p. For March, the discussion will be on the Remembrance of the Cathar Martyrs (Montesegur Day), a discussion of Lent and the Easter season, and spiritual practices that we can incorporate that involve the concept of sacrifice.

 

Edit: The venue has been changed to the Starbucks.

February 28th – Field Trip – Soto Zen Center

On February 28th at 7:30pm, we will be meeting at the Atlanta Soto Zen Center located at  1167 Zonolite Pl NE, Atlanta, GA 30306. This is near the Druid Hills community and the roads in the area are a bit convoluted so please give yourself extra time to arrive. Wear comfortable, loose fitting clothing.

Wednesday night meetings like these are set aside for a beginner’s class in Zen style meditation. Zen is a very portable practice and fits in well with any form of contemplative spiritual lifestyle. This is an excellent introduction to meditation for those who are new to the practice.

Conclave 2018 Registration

Registration for Conclave 2018 has opened!

All the details are available on the Conclave 2018 tab on the main church page at johannite.org as well as an events schedule and how to register.

As always, I encourage everyone to attend, especially clergy and seminarians, as this is a wonderful learning experience, a great opportunity to meet clergy from far flung areas, and a chance to enjoy the sacraments and rituals of the church for those of us who live far away from a parish.

Bro. Joe

February 11th – Cup of Joe – Saint Valentinus

The first meeting of every month will be our Cup of Joe coffee shop meet ups.

This month we will be honoring the Gnostic Saint Valentinus and his contributions to the canon of Gnostic Scripture: The Gospel of Truth, The Gospel of Philip, and The Treatise on the Resurrection.

Venue: Dunkin Donuts in Calhoun, GA

Time: 6pm-8:30 pm